Network Blog

Reflections on fitness, wellness, health and more

A Network riposte to criticism of outdoor group training

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald, fitness guru Garry Egger is reported as criticising outdoor fitness training as being a middle class indulgence that embarrasses passers by who witness it. Hmm, interesting…

Australian Fitness Network’s relationship with Garry goes back a long way – in fact he was one of our founders. And, dear friend though he is, we must say that on this occasion we don’t agree with his stance!

Egger criticises outdoor training/boot camps on a number of scores. One thing he finds fault with is trainers who conduct their groups poorly and ‘take over’ public areas. We agree that poorly managed outdoor training does a disservice to our industry, but we also believe that, especially since councils have tightened regulations regarding permits and PT activity on council land, such training is in a minority.

He also critiques personal training for being ‘a very middle class, indulgent thing to do’. Of course, any on-on-one personal service costs money. Not everyone can afford personal training, but for many people with pressing health and fitness goals, prioritising their fitness means they will rearrange their budget accordingly. In 21st century Australia, any number of our lifestyle decisions could be considered middle class indulgences: drive a car rather than get public transport? Pay a barista to make your coffee instead of make your own mug of instant? Buy lunch at a café instead of make your own sandwiches? Middle class indulgences all. But without these options we wouldn’t be enjoying the high standard of living that we do.

And, funnily enough, for those who cannot afford one-on-one personal training (as well as for those who prefer the communal outdoor workout environment), but who need the motivation and expertise of a fitness professional to help them improve their health and fitness, outdoor group training (which requires no gym membership fees) is one of the most affordable options, often costing between $10 and $20 per session. It seems particularly odd, therefore, that this style of training has been singled out as a ‘middle class indulgence’. And if it is, at least it has more positive outcomes than some middle class indulgences: that 8-course degustation dinner isn’t going to do wonders for your waistline.

Egger also says that those who exercise in boot camps cause other people who see them embarrassment, turning them off exercise. If someone claims to be put off of exercise by seeing someone else exercise, then they are probably not being entirely honest with themselves. At the root of much criticism, in all walks of life, is a degree of envy. The easiest way to make themselves feel better about their inactivity is to attack those who are doing what they are unwilling to do, i.e. participate in early morning exercise (which is when much outdoor training takes place), and cite it as being off-putting.

On this note, it is also worth noting the media’s eagerness to report this ‘non-story’ and to elevate it to one of the leading articles on the Sydney Morning Herald website. Time and again the fitness industry is subject to negative media stories. In some cases there may actually be a story – but more often than not they simply appear to be written by ‘journalists’ who a) have a personal axe to grind, or; b) are well aware of how popular negative stories about fitness are among the reading public. Could a deep-seated envy of those who are willing to get involved in the physical and mental challenge of getting fit be the cause of this? It seems entirely possible.

Whatever the reason, we need to ask: in a nation with an ever expanding waistline, is it really preferable for people to stop exercising outdoors to save the ‘embarrassment’ of those who lack the inclination to do so? For more people to stay in bed rather than get up early to get fit?

Australia is blessed with a wonderful great outdoors, perfect for working out in. It also has an obesity epidemic. While issues pertaining to poorly organised and disruptive outdoor training should be addressed, to try to curtail the beneficial and respectful physical activity delivered by the majority of fitness professionals seems a rather unusual stance.

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